Mina’s mother burst through the kitchen door, agitated. „Will you keep it down! What’s the matter with you? This is neither the time nor the place...!” Mina looked at her mother. „We’ll keep it down, Mrs. Norelo,” Jarrod said appeasingly. She gave a tight nod of thanks and left the room. The five friends, Mina and Jarrod, along with Bella, Piolo and Tim sat around the table in silence waiting a while for tempers to cool. They’d been having a heated argument, and it wasn’t over yet. Jarrod, who had always been the most volatile, and the most verbal, spoke first. „Your mom’s wrong, Mina. This is exactly the time and exactly the place. If we don’t do something now, while we still maintain some level of autonomy, it may be too late! It will be too late, and you all know it.” „No, we don’t know it,“ Bella burst in. „The committee is still trying to negotiate a compromise....” „Oh, come on, Bella! These people don’t even recognize our confederation as sovereign communities.” Piolo’s voice was on the edge of rising again. „They aren’t here to negotiate or compromise. Their only purpose here is to take from us what they want...and kill us in the process if we don’t go along.“ „Piolo, please,“ Mina said quietly, as she looked toward the door. He raised his hands in acquiescence. „We have to stop them now,“ Jarrod’s quiet tone was tinged with fire. „Mayla has made that clear.“
Everyone fell silent. Mina stood up and went to the door leading to the living room, opening it part way to look through at the mourners. Though Mina wanted very much to be in there with her mother and Mayla’s mother, she knew she had to be here. Jarrod and Piolo were right. Choices had to be made now, or the final choice, the choice of their survival, would be out of their hands.
Things can change in a moment. A year ago, Mina had been content in her room, weaving her fabrics, the work she enjoyed most– meditative, solitary, quietly creative work. Her life was simple and unhurried, idyllic in many ways. After the worldwide drought 100 years before, many that survived were determined not to repeat the greedy errors of the past and turned their backs on the „technological advancements“ of the previous centuries. They’d learned to live and be happy with less, they’d learned to simplify, and they’d learned to share. From the time they could understand concepts beyond their own needs, children were taught to learn history, and learn from it.
There had been warnings before the great water catastrophy - doomsday scenarios could be found everywhere – in the books, in the films everywhere in the media archives of the time. But changes in human behavior were not timely and doomsday came and then went. Water virtually disappeared, and what there was to be found, was sullied. Billions died. Mina’s forefathers came to the north where the communities of the confederacy were established around still untouched underground springs here at the base of the hills. And in this valley, they rebuilt with their dreams.
Water was declared free from the beginning, and it was woven into the fabric of their belief system and their way of life that every human being had the right to have clean water and every person had a moral obligation to respect the rights of others to that same water. For them, this freedom stood hand in hand with the unquestionable freedom of every living soul.
The Declaration of Insolvency and Progressive Reconstruction
-Decreed by the High Court of the Collective Republic-
„ Due to its propagation of ineffectual social and political systems, its fostering of primitive economic and educational systems and its sloven approach to developmental potentiality, the current leadership of the confederacy is hereby declared invalidate. The Committee is to be replaced by representatives appointed by this court, effective immediately. Anyone who stands in violation of the sovereignty of the new governing body will be subject to prosecution.”
Mina and her friends had refused to submit to this new „governing body,” with its new system of rules and its oppressive mentality. The Collective Republic had worked quickly, almost immediately building piping systems, syphoning the water out to their own territories, rerouting the free waterways, blocking all free access to the springs and wells, demanding payment for every gallon of water consumed – all against confederation laws and all against the accepted laws of nature in the valley. They called it a progress. But the builders, in their hurry to construct, had somehow allowed sewerage to leak into what was left of the fresh water supply in the valley, and the water had been slowly contaminated. Now, cases of dysentery were more than a few and nothing was being done about it. The representatives denied responsibility and threw the blame onto certain rebellious elements. Mina and others like her did hold periodic secret raids to free the wells and newly constructed dams, but everybody knew what the actual truth was. And now, several people had died, mostly elderly people and small children, like 5-year-old Mayla.
Mina had loved little Mayla, her neighbor and her friend - only 5 years old. Often, while Mina worked at her loom, Mayla would sit on the stool at the window. Sometimes she would ask more questions than Mina thought there could be answers in the world. Sometimes Mayla would talk about bugs and butterflies, or about her friends and her „not friends” in the playgroup. Sometimes Mayla would just sit and watch her weave for long periods, and sometimes she would sit next to her on the floor and play. Every once in a while, Mina would let her sit on her lap and they would work the loom together. Her arms were not yet long enough, she was small even for her age, and not very strong. Mayla was not sickly, but she was delicate, and this delicacy had made her susceptible. Her death tore at Mina’s heart like thick claws, and she felt herself pushed over an edge she didn’t even know existed.
„Once we begin, there will be no stopping.” Tim spoke for the first time. „We don’t know what the consequence will be, not only for us, but for our families.” Bella broke in, „And are we truly prepared to face what their fate will be...losing us first, then harassment, maybe abuse, some sort of imprisonment, and maybe worse. Let’s be real, and not get caught on a hero’s merry-go-round.” „What’s real, Bella?“ Piolo stood up and moved to the window. He took her words to heart. But this was something else. “The reality is that we are dying. The reality is that we can no longer live the way we choose to live. The reality is that they will accept no less than total submission and the absorption of our world into theirs. The reality of this survival is subjugation, nothing more. Can you face that reality without a struggle?” Bella was quiet, her thoughts churning. Tim cut in, as usual, the voice of contemplation. „What about us? What do we become if we take on their methods, even for our own survival. This was not how our forefathers envisioned our reactions to be. Even if we win, will we….win?” „We will win our lives back!“ Mina was suddenly sure and she looked at Jarrod, and he knew her decision was made. „To do nothing is to self-destruct, and that cannot be the answer they envisioned. Mina moved from the door back to the kitchen table. „Something will be preserved, whether we live or die, if we are clear about what we are fighting for. I, for one, do not want to watch our lives end here, passive and waiting for salvation.”
At 3:00 am, two days later, Mina got up and moved as quietly as she could. Her parents were deep sleepers, especially her mother, but she didn’t want to take any chances. The less they knew, the better. She sat at her desk to write a note to them, saying not to worry. Of course, they would – she stopped in mid-sentence and breathed deeply – and for good reason. But all the truths that she had unconsciously lived by were now clear before her eyes, and she was prepared to do whatever she had to, to set the world right again. She would learn to disable machinery and incapacitate communications systems. Use a gun? Set an explosive? Yes, if need be. There seemed to be no end to the tunnel of sadness that she now walked through. She hoped with all her heart that out of her struggle would grow a legacy of peace and prosperity, as she had known it. But right now, a price had to be paid, and she was willing to pay it.
Mina grabbed her coat and back pack and took one last look around – at her writing table now clear of its usual piles of papers and her loom sitting quiet with a ray of moonlight cutting across it. Another hope entered her heart, that she would pick up here one day, right where she left off. Closing her door softly, she made her way through the house to the back door. She would take the forest path, still only known to her small community, and meet Jarrod and Piolo. Bella and Tim felt their work was here, preserving what they could, helping through the troubled times that were upon them. A last hope was that they would meet again.
It was 3:30 am. As Mina went through the back door and closed it, she hesitated for a few seconds, leaning against it, and prayed for guidance. What she did not see was her mother sitting in a chair in the corner. What she did not hear, was her mother whispering her good-byes. She looked up in the darkness, pulled her courage and determination forward, and headed out into the night.